Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cactus Flower (1969)

All the GIFs (moving images) in this post were made by me apart from the one credited with another source. Please can you not use them without crediting me and don't use them as your own.

I'm on a huge Ingrid Bergman kick right now (when am I not though?) but I've watched a few more of her movies and I started this new movie watching session with Gene Saks's hippy dentist creation Cactus Flower starring Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman! It's a strange combination of comedic situations and attitudes but they piece together to make a movie that's no masterpiece but is sure worth a watch :-D

Walter Matthau plays bachelor dentist Julian Winston who is in a relationship with Goldie Hawn's character, Toni Simmons. He has told her that he is married (a la Indiscreet) so that he won't get caught up in any long-lasting relationships. SO upset that he is "devoted to his wife" (yeah right lying idiot) so she attempts suicide.

She is interrupted by her Hippy-playwright-neighbour, Igor Sullivan who saves her and gives her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation which turns into a kiss. This sparks an awkward situation (obvs). Earlier that evening she sent a letter telling Julian that she is going to kill herself so she tells Igor to send a message to him telling him he's alive. 

Julian realises that he wants to marry Toni so he has to get someone to play his wife "who wants a divorce". Who better than his reliable Dental Nurse, Miss Dickinson (played by Ingrid Bergman)! 

She is very insulted at this suggestion but nevertheless goes on with the charade. 

It gets more and more elaborate as she realises there are many different parts to Julian's lie. It starts with Miss Dickinson talking to Toni in a record shop and ends in several dance-offs at a hip dance club. Julian calls Miss Dickinson as "prickly as her cactus", but is this blossoming out?

I'm kind of mixed about this movie. I loved Ingrid Bergman obviously - there's nothing this gal can't do. Overall I felt like the film just missed out on being completely unforgettable. It may be to do with the script, but ultimately and quite unfortunately I think it's down to Miss Hawn. I really wanted to like her - she's totally kooky and cute. I'm usually expecting someone that gimmicky and kooky to be a really down-to-earth actress but she was just a little too trixie for my liking. I really wish that they'd cast then rising star Barbra Streisand - in my opinion she would have been perfect. Overall though, I really enjoyed this movie and would love to watch it again sometime!

Walter Matthau was in total Odd Couple mode - he is very laid back - you'd don't feel like he's making the greatest of efforts but he is of course wonderful because he's Walther Matthau. His scenes with Ingrid Bergman are really cute and the two of them with their great comedic timing create great chemistry and atmosphere. Like Robert Montgomery who I talked about just a little while ago in my post about Private Lives he is one of those actors who need only stand on the screen and look vacant and be roaringly funny.

{probably the most pointless GIF I've ever made.}

Ingrid Bergman is perfect in everything. The way that she gives layers to all her character's is unsurpassed by any other actress in my opinion. In this character that might be played as a sort of stiff and boring "sterilised" old maid, Ingrid Bergman finds an imagination, an upbeat person who is interesting - yet simply doesn't enjoy mixing business with pleasure. 

When she let's go she's hilarious and it's a joy to watch her performance the whole way through. She's very physically free and brave - I always think this about her - and her delivery of some lines is so deadpan and funny. When her fake boyfriend says "Wanna dance?" and she just says, "I'd rather dance on hot coals."

Overall it's a fun film with good direction and a fair script and a couple of outstanding leads. It's a great laugh and I'd recommend it if you're looking for something visually pleasing, a bit silly and fun. Also, it's worth watching for Ingrid's new move "THE DENTIST" alone!


Monday, 25 June 2012

For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)

All the GIFs (Moving Pictures) in this post belong to me. All the pictures apart from the poster, illustrations of Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman and the black and white portrait are also mine. Please don't redistribute without crediting or asking for permission.

This film had been waiting on my shelf for months and months for a watch. Believe it or not, I ordered it about a year and a half ago and it's been sitting there and I've been putting off watching it for ages! I'm not a great Gary Cooper fan but I may just have been converted by For Whom The Bell Tolls (based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway)... It was a lot better than I expected. Admittedly I fell asleep the first time I tried to watch this but I did nearly faint a couple of minutes before I put it on... This time I didn't fall asleep but I did take a break to go shopping - come on guys, it's two and a half ours of Spanish revolution!

Set in the Spanish Civil war, Roberto (Gary Cooper) is an american fighter for the republic who is assigned the job of blowing up an important bridge currently held by the nationalists. He is sent with an old man to sort out the job with a group of rebels and gypsies living high in the mountains. Leader of the group is Pilar (played by greek actress Katina Paxinou who won an oscar for her work in this film) followed by Pablo. Pablo is very apprehensive about fighting for any side and is an increasing problem in the group.

The group has recently picked up 19 year old orphan Maria (Ingrid Bergman) who was assaulted and kidnapped by nationalists who killed her family.

She had her head shaved so when asked by Roberto how long she has been in the mountains she pulls he hair and says "This long". She and Roberto immediately feel a chemistry between them and soon fall in love which creates even more problems in the group. Will they be able to pull together to pull off the dangerous operation of securing and blowing up the bridge?

Director Sam Wood did a masterful job with the direction of this complex epic. The lighting of the early colour film is beautiful and ethereal yet raw. The script is romantic and full of suspense, leaving enough room for the actors to add a lot of their own flair. I don't know how much the dialogue was kept from the original book by Hemingway, but it does sound very poetic.

Hemingway hand-picked Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper for the film. There was a bit of trouble caused by this. He sent Ingrid a signed copy of his book and said in the front cover "You are my Maria." She went to her studio and told them and showed them the book, but alas, Paramount had purchased the rights. Paramount said they had their own actors and didn't need to borrow Bergman. They cast another gril opposite Cooper but it was so obvious that Ingrid was perfect that after around two weeks on the picture they fired the other girl and cast Ingrid. 

They said "Ingrid, you'll need to cut your hair off..." and she said "I'd cut my HEAD off for that part!"

Ingrid Bergman was wonderful again, she showed aspects of her ability of performance that you don't often see in her. She is totally loveable as the lonely yet happy Maria who has lost everything but still has hope that she'll get through everything. I was a nervous wreck *SPOILERS* in her scene at the end with Gary Cooper, her face when he tells her he has to stay and then the way she is writhing around on her horse screaming "ROBERTO! ROBERTO!" Guys, come pick me up off the floor I'm lying in puddles of my tears. She's a total inspiration for me as an actress.

Gary Cooper. I've never been a great fan - a bit too naturalistic I thought, but after watching his tender and brave performance in FWTBT then I might just be a convert. He and Ingrid Bergman work very well in the way that she does with Gregory Peck, they are both sensitive and a little shy. Also, can we discuss how handsome he is...

Katina Paxinou and the rest of the supporting cast did a sterling job with their hard and physical roles. The fight scenes were well crafted and convincingly acted. 

I love me a war film.

I would definitely say go watch this now. It feels like something you should watch at least once. It's worth it for the lead performances alone.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Vivement Dimanche! (Finally Sunday)

The weather's crazy here right now. Bleh, it's rainy and I went to my sailing club in hope of a sail this morning and the water had been closed due to strong wind and generally rubbish whether. Damn. Anyhow! While I'm still procrastinating because math revision have nothing to do, I thought I'd write a bit about Francois Truffaut's final film Vivement Dimanche (1983)

I watched this film yesterday and it was a bit of a step forward. Apart from the Monsieur Hulot film Mon Oncle (1958) this was the first full on subtitled film that we'd ever watched. It seems we've come to a point where we can all deal with the fast-paced subtitles and things like that. Fortunately, my parents ils adorent le cinéma français so we are slightly in abundance of awesome movies to watch.

My dad bought my mum the Francois Truffaut box set for christmas and when we decided to watch a French film as a family this is what we went for (springing Louis Malle on the 10 year old seemed a bit harsh.) My awesomespice sister who loves detective movies (her favourite thing evah is the 60s Miss Marple films) chose the film with the creepy plot about a man who is murdered while shooting pidgeons and then this man is accused so he and his secretary have to run around nice and Marseilles solving the case. This leads them to all sorts of places including a brothel, a nightclub and a suspicious looking movie theatre.

This film was made in 1983 an it stars Fanny Ardent and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Though made in the early eighties, it was filmed in black and white which certainly adds to the film noir chic feel of the movie. It is pretty aesthetically pleasing. They've decked out leading lady Fanny Ardent a la Ingrid Bergman in Notorious.

There's a great scene in which the two leads look out onto their town and see all the little lights flickering on and off and it's just a peaceful and inspiring moment.

Though it is a thriller, there is an element of this movie that isn't entirely serious. It's the kind of off-hand deadpan humour that you simply couldn't get in an American or English movie - except perhaps Alfred Hitchcock of whom Truffaut was a lifelong fan. I've never seen a Truffaut movie before, I've read sections of his book about Hitchcock but this was the first of his films I've ever seen. I adored this. It was right up my street. I loved how it featured a strong woman who was pretty much devoid of stereotypes. I said to my mum about fifteen minutes in "In most american movies this woman would have already been stereotyped to death." He handled everything beautifully from the actors performances - all perfectly realistic and natural - to the wonderful shots he uses. His direction isn't showy and flamboyant, it's always there and it threads the film together seamlessly. I have to admit it's my favourite type of direction.

Francois Truffaut with his two leads on set. Jean Louis Trintignant seems engrossed in a crossword lol.

The performances were great. I particularly loved Fanny Ardent and her no-nonsense approach to the part. She always was one step ahead in the way she chose to play the role. Meanwhile you could see from the beginning that she had feelings for him. I particularly loved the bit at the beginning where a detective said "He couldn't have committed suicide - his brother was a priest!" and she just goes "That means nothing." and then another time she says "Why is it that your boss can fire you but you can't fire your boss?"

Jean-Louis Trintignant was also very good - only in a french movie could an ageing man be put into a stylish mainstream film as the main love intrest! It's not really an easy part but he did well with it and it didn't seem whiny or nasty. He certainly as to deal with lots of confusing plot twists!

Also, Marlene Dietrich lookalike anyone???

P.S. I never trust lawyers.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Allergic To Your Stupidity.

my graphic, still from Without Love, 1945

Because I felt this was needed on the internet.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Private Lives (1931)

I'm totally in love with Private Lives right now. My little sister and I watched it on YouTube a while ago, and we totally adored it. So we said, "Oh my god, we have to show this to Mum and Dad." So we finally got around to it and they loved it so much they were like, "we have to get this on dvd." I was super pleased that they liked it - Norma Shearer reminds me a whole load of my mum.

The classic Noel Coward play is adapted extremely well for film. I honestly can't think of a much better play to be adapted for Pre-Code cinema. I don't think they could have done it real justice with the Hayes Code in full flow - the love scenes would have seemed stilted (the only film that I know that really and truly managed to get around that problem was Notorious where Hitchcock interspersed his kisses over a period of three minutes with second long gaps) and I can't imagine they would have let Norma Shearer hitting Robert Montgomery over the head with a record pass through either. The director isn't anyone I've heard of before - Sidney Franklin - but he does an excellent job with this difficult project.

Of couse I'm constantly in awe of Noel Coward and his genius, let alone the great dialogue. He wrote the beautiful song, "Someday I'll Find You (Moonlight Behind You)" {adding parenthesis like a boss}. It's now my aim in life to use some of that script or that song in one of my drama projects. Anyway, as you probably know, Private Lives is about divorced couple Amanda and Elliot who meet up on separate honeymoons with their new spouses and decide that they still love each other madly and run away.

Robert Montgomery is one of those amazing actors who can just stand on screen and be hilarious. He's constantly in a state of, "Do I look like I give a damn", and if he so desires he can pull off, "Thanks Gurlfrand!"

pretty well too. He plays Elliot well. I was a little concerned about having such an american actor play such a classically British part, but he carries it off well. I love his sulking sessions. And when he hits Amanda he just does this hilarious OMG face. He's too funny.

Norma Shearer is such a great actress. She got a lot of stick for being Irving Thalberg famed-producer's wife, but she really was a good actress, too. She is totally and utterly hilarious in the scene where she hits Elliot over the head with a record. She commits to the role with total and utter abandon which I can only imagine a few other actresses doing as well as she does. I'm really looking forward to watching some more or her films (The Women and A Free Soul were both fantastic).

The supporting cast did well, too - there are only two of them  anyway (the only other roles are their spouses Victor and Sybil).

I strongly urge you to watch this - you'll thoroughly enjoy it.